Roleplaying games are a conversation. Like any conversation, they’re at their best when the people in them are engaged and present, not distracted. Playing an RPG means sharing a collaboratively created world and holding that mutual fiction in your mind; thus, the conversation suffers when people disengage.
Maybe some of you have seen something like this before:
Player: “I want to see what’s behind this bookshelf. I hit it with my axe. I get a 3 on my attack roll.” Storyteller: “Well… that doesn’t seem very effective. The bookshelf doesn’t move.” Player: “Okay, I swing at it again. 5.” Storyteller: “…” Player: “Not good enough? I try again. 1.” Storyteller: *Sigh* “The bookshelf falls on you. You take 6 damage.”
These rolls are boring, and this scene is a clear failure in my eyes. Not on the part of the PC, who can’t get a break with that bookshelf, but on the part of the storyteller and the player. It plays into two misconceptions that crop up in RPGs, either of which can Continue reading →
Many popular RPG systems measure success (or failure) as a simple binary. For example, by a strict reading of D&D 5e’s rules, either your character is successfully sneaky or they’re not: there’s no middle ground. There’s no benefit for being exceptionally stealthy, and there’s no real penalty for being exceptionally not-stealthy. Thus, there’re no degrees of success or failure. Every test is pass or fail.
This streamlines resolution of tests, and has the benefit of being fast and simple. But it also misses Continue reading →